Restoration work on a portrait of a Tahitian princess, painted more than 200 years ago, is almost complete.
The picture of Poedua by the artist John Webber dates back to 1785 and was purchased for $2 million at auction two years ago.
It once belonged to the grandmother of present day Tahitian Prince Raanui Daunassans-Pomare, who was reunited with the painting last year.
Now, curators at the Museum of New Zealand are close to returning Poedua to her original beauty.
Webber accompanied Captain James Cook on his third voyage to the Pacific from 1776 till 1780. On the voyage was another ship – the Discovery, captained by Lieutenant Charles Clerke.
When two of the Discovery’s crew deserted, Cook is said to have locked Princess Poedua, her brother and husband in Clerke’s cabin in order to persuade the Tahitian chief of the day to bring his men back.
While the princess was locked away, Webber did smaller, now lost, oil paintings of her. On his return to England, for his European audience, he replaced the cramped confines of the cabin-turned-cell with a lush tropical backdrop.
“It was probably the first oil painting that showed the image of a South Pacific woman as an alluring beauty,” according to museum curator Vicki Robson.